Akademie für Alte Musik, Berlin

Bach: Orchestral Works

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Light, bright, tight, and above all fast, this Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin recording coupling three fairly random concertos by Johann Sebastian Bach is a delightful way to while away a little less than an hour. Including two of Bach's most popular concertos -- the Fifth Brandenburg for solo flute, violin, and harpsichord plus strings and the Overture in B minor for solo flute and strings -- along with one of his less-known concertos, the Double Concerto for two harpsichords and strings, will for the novice provide enough of the familiar to be instantly recognizable and for the cognoscenti to provide enough novelty to spice up an otherwise staid repertoire. The playing itself is all first-rate. As is manifest from its name, the Akademie für Alte Musik performs on period instruments, and if the ensemble sound is transparent, the responsibility is as much the tone of the instruments and the technique with which they're played as it is the one-player-to-a-part accompaniment. Of the soloists, flutist Ernst-Burghard Hilse is perhaps the most persuasive with his expressive performances of the Affetuoso from the Brandenburg and especially of the Sarabande from the Overture and Raphael Alpermann distinguishes himself in his sweeping interpretation of the cadenza from the opening Allegro of the Brandenburg. While listeners looking for complete sets of either the Brandenburgs, the overtures, or the harpsichord concertos will need to keep looking, listeners looking for a single disc of Bach will be fully satisfied. Recorded in 1988 by Capriccio, the early digital sound is not only remarkably clean, it is just about if not quite wholly realistic.

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